PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Friday that France would break with its allies in NATO and accelerate the French withdrawal from Afghanistan, pulling back combat troops a year early, by the end of 2013.
After a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Paris, Sarkozy said they would ask the NATO alliance for a similar speedup of the transfer of primary security responsibilities to Afghan troops.
The moves followed an attack a week ago by a rogue Afghan soldier who fired on unarmed French troops on a training mission in Kapisa, killing four soldiers and wounding 15, eight of them seriously. The attack was a major blow for France and occurred amid a tough re-election campaign for Sarkozy. His main rival for the presidency, the Socialist François Hollande, has promised to pull all French troops out by the end of this year.
Sarkozy insisted that the acceleration was not due to the deaths of the French soldiers but due to "the outstanding job our soldiers have done" training the Afghans.
In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said the announcement was not a surprise, and she repeatedly saluted France, saying it had "performed superbly in Afghanistan."
At the last summit meeting of NATO, in late 2010, it was agreed to end combat missions in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.